Reducing Conflict 7 The Root of Conflict

September 27, 2021

There is a common denominator for nearly all interpersonal conflict that I call the “Root of all Conflict.” When we have an opinion on any topic, we believe it is true.  The opinion was formed in our brain, and we look for supporting facts to bolster that opinion.

I AM RIGHT Button 

 It is like we each wear a button with the words “I AM RIGHT” printed on it.  If you come up with a different opinion, then you will be wrong according to me, because I believe in my opinion. If you agree with my opinion, then there is no conflict, but if you disagree, then we are in for some conflict.

At home, at work, or in social situations, the phenomenon is easy to spot on a daily basis. It is probably the most frequent cause of conflict between people. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if there was a mechanism for reducing the problem?  Well, there is, and I am going to share it.

How to Avoid Fighting 

First of all, you need to recognize that you are wearing the button (figuratively, not literally).  Then, if someone has a different view, rather than becoming defensive or belligerent, try to imagine the other person is wearing an invisible button too. 

Take the time to really listen to the other person’s opinion before trying to defend your position. Ask open-ended questions that are genuine and seek to find out how the other person came to that realization. You can share that you have a different opinion on this topic, but try to avoid getting into an argument.

Use Body Language 

Be careful how you word your own opinions. Use phrases that indicate there may be other possible interpretations. Keep in mind that your body language says a lot about your attitude when listening to the other person. Try to project that, while you do have an opinion, you do not have a closed mind on the topic.

Free Bonus Video

Here is a video that contains more information on the root of all conflict including additional tips on how you can break the cycle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7PTp1aSB6g

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

 


Reducing Conflict 6 Double Sided Labels

September 20, 2021

We tend to put labels on other people. These are words to describe some kind of flaw we perceive in them. For example, you might say another person is lazy, or a bully, immature, a hot-head, or a gossip. 

It is easy to put an unflattering label on another person. The underlying logic behind hurtful labels is “why can’t you be more like me?”  Actually, it is human nature to see the flaws in other people much easier than to see our own improvement opportunities.

In reality, we all have ways we can improve, but we tend to focus more on the ways other people need to change in order to be more perfect. We make up the labels to see the flaws more clearly and give them a name.

Rationalization

Our self-talk tends to excuse the things that we do because “under the circumstances” we are doing the best that we can. We give ourselves a pass on some personal habits, but other people will pick up on them and put labels on us.

Distribution of Warts

It is helpful to remember that God sprinkled a roughly equal number of imperfections on us all.  Nobody goes through life without some labels being put on him or her. Someone may say that you procrastinate constantly.  You think to yourself, I make sure that I know what I am doing before I jump into action.

Try to Catch Yourself in the Act

It is really difficult to break the habit of putting unflattering labels on other people. It is part of the human condition.  Because you excuse your own flaws and wish other people could rise to your standard of excellence, you are not conscious of when you are being judgmental of them.

One way to reduce this problem is to catch yourself having a negative thought about another person that becomes a label. Recognize that you just did it, and have a conversation with yourself about how that person would react if you used the negative label to his or her face.  The more you can catch yourself doing this the easier it is to become conscious of it and change the habit yourself.

Free Bonus Video

Here is a video that contains more information on the labels we put on other people along with some additional tips on how you can break the cycle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90J7ZSb4sxc

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

 


Reducing Conflict 5 The Power of Flights

September 13, 2021

Sometimes a simple airplane flight can allow two teams working remotely to make more progress than dozens of Zoom calls.

When working on large projects, managers often split up the work so one group works on one part while another group, typically located in another city or country, works on a different part. If you are the overall manager for the effort, keep a close eye on the level of silo thinking between these two groups.

Often the allegiance to the part Group 1 is working on will make communication with Group 2 more difficult. This is especially true if both parts must function equally well for the whole project to be successful and the entire system not working well.

Group 1 will typically blame Group 2 for the problems and vice versa.  You can waste a lot of time and energy, even if the people involved are really trying to work well together and communicating frequently by phone or video conference. 

There comes a point where it is worth it to get the groups together physically in the same room to brainstorm the best solution. I ran into a classic example of this phenomenon late in my career. The story is contained in the three-minute video below.

The tricky part is to be able to sense when the “we versus they” feelings are getting in the way of viewing a problem objectively. You do this by observing the phrases used when the teams are interfacing. For example, you might read an email that says, “We wanted to accelerate the testing but they thought the original schedule was better.”

Often the “we versus they” attitudes are hidden in the body language when teams interface virtually. Look for eyes rolling or side glances among the team members to pick up on areas of disagreement. When these kinds of signals are slowing up the progress of the entire project, it really helps to co-locate the teams for a while until they come up with a breakthrough.

In the example I share below, we were struggling for weeks and getting nowhere.  I insisted that the groups get together, and a solution became evident after only a few hours of working together.  

Free Bonus Video

Here is a video that contains a true story of how this dynamic works.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QETek1SjPA

 

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 rticles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

 


Reducing Conflict 4 Political Thought

September 6, 2021

Political thought is an interesting topic in conflict avoidance. The essence of a political thought is the firm belief that your way of viewing a situation is the “right” way and that any opposing view is wrong. You become so entrenched with your perspective that you lose the ability to be objective and can actually do harm to your point of view.

I learned an important lesson about political thought in a public speaking course while I was in college.  I had given an excellent talk on a political issue of how much money to invest in the space race.

When I got my grade for the talk, the professor complemented me on an excellent layout of the argument for my beliefs.  Then he told me that I was “snotty as hell” when addressing questions from the group.

I had convinced the group that my perspective was right, but then I alienated my audience during the Q and A portion and lost support.  I had overplayed my hand. If the objective of college is to learn valuable life skills, I got my money’s worth that day.

Respect Contrary Opinions

In advocating your position, make your case as strongly as you can. Fortify your points with data and examples, but do not jump on someone who expresses a legitimate question.  Be kind if there is some push back, because there is always a particle of truth, or you could be wrong. If you really do disagree with the statement made by another person, just agree to disagree. Don’t become bellicose trying to defend your position. You are not likely to change the other person’s perspective and tend to undermine your own credibility.

 

Free Bonus Video

 Here is the link to a short video on Political Thought:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMba0W1Z-Uw

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 rticles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

 


Reducing Conflict 3 Silo Thinking

August 30, 2021

A common form of conflict that we see in organizational life is called “Silo Thinking.” It is common because organizations of all types are made up of different groups of people. These groups are normally arranged so that the individual groups add up to get the work done most efficiently.

For example, in a manufacturing operation you might see a design group, a production group, a quality group, a finance group, and a management group. Each of these groups will have one person who is in charge of that group. By design, these groups take on the parochial viewpoints of their function.  That polarization leads to the most common form of conflict in the workplace known as “Silo Thinking.”

Childish Behavior

You would think that having different groups would create efficiency due to specialization, and you would be right, except it also encourages the groups to squabble and fight.  Emotions run high when one group feels attacked because of the desires of the other group.   People can resort to all kinds of methods to get their way. For example, it is common to have some name calling involved, especially if the opposing groups use email to communicate.  People in the groups will become adamant that their way of viewing the situation is the only correct approach.

To spot silo thinking in groups that communicate mostly via email, look for “we versus they” wording in the notes. For example, a note might read, “We wanted to postpone the introduction until all the bugs were worked out, but they thought we were ready.”

Simple Solution

The easy way to break the cycle of Silo Thinking is to get the groups to recognize they share a common goal at the next higher level.   They are really not in opposition; they are on the same team.  It is like the offense and defense groups on a football team.  Both groups want to win the game, but they often view a situation from their perspective.

Reminding people that they are on the same team is effective, but sometimes you need to do more than that to break up the silo thinking.  I found that swapping some members of one team for members of the other team is often helpful. When it becomes hard to tell which group is which, you have broken the cycle, and the silos no longer exist.

I once made a lot of progress by swapping the leader of one group with the leader of the other group. It was interesting to watch the walls of the silos melt before my eyes. It did not take long.

Stay alert for the signs of silo thinking at work or at home and take steps to intervene early before much damage is done.

Free Bonus Video

 Here is the link to a short video on Silo Thinking:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mH5kJ8EKqPM

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 rticles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

 


Reducing Conflict 2 Different Viewpoints

August 23, 2021

The topic of viewpoints is fascinating to me because most of the time once you have a clear viewpoint, you own that view of the issue and it is difficult to change it. If we see something as wrong, we will fiercely defend our position and rarely change our mind.

I discovered that trait in myself many years ago at work when my manager insisted that I enforce a policy that I thought was wrong. He forced me to fire two wonderful employees because of an administrative rule that after a person was a temporary worker for an arbitrary period of time, we needed to let the person go. I would have voted to be more flexible in that situation.

Entrenched feelings

Once your viewpoint is clear in your mind, you have lost your ability to see the issue objectively. You become the personification of your opinion or interpretation of the facts.  Examples of polarized entrenched feelings are very common in political environments. It is almost childish how supposedly mature adults can argue for their parochial point of view to the point of having tantrums and calling each other names.

Family and work life

The same tendencies show up in family life quite regularly. One person believes the snow is white while the other person insists it is green. The famous philosopher, Earl Nightingale, distilled the wisdom of the ages into just six words that he called, “The strangest secret.”  “We become what we think about.”

In any kind of organization, you can witness the same phenomenon almost daily. It is one of the most common forms of acrimony for any organization.  The interesting thing about this problem is that it is very difficult to control.  Once an opinion has been formed, it is very difficult to shift a person’s viewpoint to actually believe it is wrong.

An exercise for enlightenment

One way to soften your own stubbornness at home or at work is to catch yourself in the act.  Recognize when you have taken on a specific viewpoint and witness the lengths you go to in order to prove your point.  Now, imagine reversing your stance. How would it feel?  Probably at first it would feel awkward at best, but you are at least considering that there may be another valid point of view. That realization represents growth.  

Free Bonus Video

 Here is the link to a short video on Different Viewpoints:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIwHvfTDuKE

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 rticles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

 


Reducing Conflict 1 Why Can’t We Just Get Along

August 16, 2021

This is the first in a series of articles on the topic of reducing conflict.  I received a nice compliment from someone on LinkedIn a couple years ago.  He wrote:”…and the award for the best first line for any of the 100 million LinkedIn discussions goes to…Bob Whipple for: ‘Observing Human beings at work, it is clear we have an uncanny ability to drive each other crazy.’”

Very Common Problem

It doesn’t matter if people are working remotely or in close proximity, we still have a tendency to get on each other’s nerves. I contend that the problem shows up a lot sooner when people are working closely together physically. The little things tend to get on our nerves and begin to multiply with the passing of time. Soon, even a slight personal tick can become like an earthquake to the other person.

This series will share 30 different ways of reducing conflict that I have learned along the way. There are many additional methods of coping, but these articles may provide some food for thought, and hopefully some entertainment.

Video Enhancement

For each article, I will attach a link to a brief (3 minute) video that goes along with the technique I am describing.  I invite people in this group to comment on the validity of the techniques and share others that might be extensions of the things I have learned.

Classic Example

In this first article, I want to point out how quickly things can get resolved if there is an intervention of the right kind.  Usually if two people are already on each other’s nerves, it is difficult for them to resolve the issue without outside help.  In this video, I share a true story of how an entire company was fighting like cats and dogs. Nobody was having any fun, and it became downright dangerous, but in less than one year the situation was totally reversed.

In this case, the problem was an impending succession issue, where people were convinced that the heir apparent was not qualified. Several groups had sprung up to fight for a different outcome. The problem was so severe that the CEO, who was scheduled to retire, refused to leave because the next in line, who was being pushed by an oversight group, was the wrong choice. It took an outsider to unscramble the mess and make the correct choice for the new CEO.

Free Bonus Video

 Here is the link to the first video on reducing conflict:

https://youtube.com/video/Mz8Z1PF7xEg

 

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 rticles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.